by Tracy Briseño
Recently my grandmas both shared some family pictures. I’ve never been very interested before. I know the basics of my family history, but hadn’t really gotten into many stories about folks I’ve never met.
Seeing photos of them changed that for me. I started listening more to the stories and asking more questions. Once I jumped in, I realized I needed a way to understand who my grandmas were talking about. Was Aunt Pat their Aunt, their Great Aunt, my grandpa’s aunt, or a close family friend not even related to us? I tried out Ancestry to map out my family tree and fill in people and connect photos to names. I found it to be addictive. It is fascinating to see my grandma with her parents in the 1950 census and see her best friend that she’s been telling me stories about living just down the hall. I can see the changes over the decades as my grandpa’s family expanded and siblings started families of their own, all in one small town in Illinois.
So now I was hooked. I wanted to know more about how to research further back, what kind of questions to ask my family members, and how to scan family photos so I could have my own copies of these pictures that now evoked stories for me. I started checking out books from the library and looking at what family history resources were available.
I like books that are not too overwhelming – I’m still a beginner! I also liked see what directions I could go in as I delve back into my family’s story. I started with Genealogy Basics in 30 minutes by Shannon Combs-Bennett. It was so helpful and straightforward for where I was in my learning. It was so helpful to understand that census information could be conflicting because it may have been provided by a child or a neighbor if the family wasn’t home (pre-1940). That helped me to be less frustrated when dates didn’t match up exactly.
I have also been excited to check out some of the library’s magazines that share interesting tips and tricks for researching, identifying people in family trees and sorting through information from family members. The library carries some magazines in print and others online through the Libby app. I’ve checked out Family Tree Magazine, Internet Genealogy, and the Iowa History Journal. I like getting to dip into different topics and get a quick overview of areas of history that I wouldn’t think about connecting to my own family history.
Ames Public Library also provides access to online resources, including Ancestry and Family Search in the library as well as Heritage Quest through the library’s website.
I’ve never been to one of the Genealogy Plus events at the library, but I always find their topics fascinating. The series will start back up in September, along with Genealogy Help sessions. I have brought in photos to scan at the scan stations and I’m super excited to try out the Vivid-Pix software to restore photos. I know there are many resources available to help me as I move forward in this journey. I’ve interlibrary loaned books that go into detail about a specific area of the country that I have family from.
It is interesting to learn more about the history and events that shaped my ancestors’ lives. I find that the more that I interweave family stories, family photos, and online research, the more that I’m able to delve in and really get a picture of who my family was and how their lives shaped mine.